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Estate Planning in the Digital Age

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Estate Planning

Have you ever wondered what will happen to your online presence and digital assets after you die? If you have not, you are not alone. Many people do not think about their digital legacy until it is too late. However, it is important to plan ahead and ensure that your online accounts, files, photos, videos, and other digital assets are handled according to your wishes after your death.

What are Digital Assets?

Digital assets are any online or electronic records that you own or have access to. They can include:

  • Social media accounts (g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)
  • Email accounts (g., Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo)
  • Online banking and financial accounts (g., PayPal, Venmo)
  • Online shopping accounts (g., Amazon, eBay)
  • Online gaming accounts (g., PlayStation, Xbox Live)
  • Online storage accounts (g., Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud)
  • Online subscription services (g., Netflix, Spotify)
  • Blogs and websites
  • Domain names and web hosting services
  • Cryptocurrencies and digital wallets
  • Photos, videos, music, documents, and other files stored online or on your devices

Why is it Important to Manage Digital Assets After Your Death?

There are several reasons why you should plan ahead and manage your digital assets after your death. Some of them are:

  • To protect your privacy and security. If you do not take any action, your online accounts and files may be vulnerable to hacking, identity theft, fraud, or misuse by others. For example, someone may access your email account and send spam or phishing messages to your contacts, or someone may use your credit card information to make unauthorized purchases.
  • To prevent emotional distress for your loved ones. If you do not leave any instructions or access information for your online accounts and files, your family and friends may have a hard time accessing them or may not be able to access them at all. This can cause frustration, confusion, grief, or legal disputes. For example, your loved ones may want to access your photos and videos to remember you or to create a memorial for you, but they may not be able to do so without your password or consent.
  • To preserve your legacy and reputation. If you do not manage your online presence and digital assets after your death, they may not reflect your true personality, values, or wishes. For example, your social media profiles may show outdated or inaccurate information about you, or your blog or website may become inactive or obsolete.
  • To comply with the law and the terms of service of the online platforms. If you do not follow the rules and regulations of the online platforms that you use, you may violate their terms of service or privacy policies. This can result in the deletion or suspension of your accounts or files. For example, some platforms may require you to provide proof of death or a court order to access or transfer the accounts or files of a deceased person.

How to Manage Your Online Presence and Digital Assets After Your death?

There are several steps that you can take to manage your online presence and digital assets after your death. Some of them are:

  • Make an inventory of your digital assets. List all the online accounts and files that you own or have access to. Include the username, password, email address, security questions and answers, and any other relevant information for each account or file. You can use a spreadsheet, a document, a password manager app, or a paper notebook to store this information.
  • Decide what you want to happen to your digital assets after your death. For each account or file that you have listed in the inventory, decide whether you want to:
    • Delete it
    • Keep it active
    • Transfer it to someone else
    • Archive it
    • Donate it
  • Create a will or a trust that includes your digital assets. You should include your digital assets in your Will or Trust and name a personal representative to manage them.
  • Review the terms of service and policies of your online platforms. Each online platform may have different rules and regulations regarding the access and transfer of the accounts and files of a deceased person. You should review these terms of service and policies and follow their procedures and requirements. You should also check if they offer any options or tools to help you manage your digital assets after your death. For example, some platforms may allow you to:
    • Designate a legacy contact or a beneficiary who can access or manage your account after your death
    • Create a memorialized account that preserves your profile and allows your friends and family to post tributes or condolences
    • Set up an inactive account manager that deletes or transfers your account after a period of inactivity
    • Download or export your data or content to a local device or another online service

Managing your online presence and digital assets after your death is an important and responsible task that can benefit you and your loved ones. Planning ahead and taking the necessary steps ensures your digital legacy is protected, preserved, and respected according to your wishes.

If you need assistance with estate planning in the digital age, contact John Tullio at 216-621-7860.

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